A community centre in Bury St Edmunds has become the first in the country to be signed over to its community
After two years of negotiation, the lease for Southgate Community Centre was signed over to a partnership by St Edmundsbury Borough Councill at a ceremony on Friday attended by local people, the borough’s mayor Cllr Christopher Spicer and Bury St Edmunds’ MP David Ruffley.
Mr Ruffley praised Southgate ward for its sense of community and said: “We know there’s a lot more you can do. Don’t look at this as the council wanting to get shot of it. The right way to look at it is that you will be freed up to do what you want. There will be fewer people telling you what you can and can’t do.”
Southgate Church, which adjoins the centre, and Southgate Community Association have formed a partnership to run it. The centre’s future is secured by deeds stipulating that the site can only be for community use.
Southgate Community Partnership trustee Bob Jones said he had first seen the council wanted to sign leases to community groups in the Bury Free Press. He added: “Both the church and the community association put in letters saying they wanted to take it on but it soon became obvious that wasn’t the way to do it and we sat down and became a partnership.”
The Rev Peter Gibson said: “It’s great to be here and be part of what is a first.”
He said that in 1974 theirs was the first ecumenical church in East Anglia to be part of a community centre, though it soon outgrew its small room and began holding services in the main hall.
When the papers were signed, Cllr Spicer said he had been involved in running his local village hall and added: “We do it in the countryside so there is no reason why you can’t do it in the town.”